After one of the hardest years many of us will ever experience, help is on the way for Oregon businesses and families. Gov. Kate Brown just unveiled a 10-point Economic Recovery Plan and the state is slated to receive $6.4 billion in federal stimulus funds.
This is good news — but is it enough to dig out from the very deep hole so many have ended up in? Or is there more we can do to pave the way to full economic and social recovery?
It’s no secret that Oregon had among the strictest COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures in the United States, and it didn’t take long before Oregonians far and wide were experiencing profound financial struggles.
Look around and you can see the impact of these struggles in my own Clatsop County and across the state.
According to reports, 30% of businesses and 50% of leisure and hospitality firms have closed throughout the state.
As a result, we are seeing a spike in long-term unemployment: in December, 60,000 Oregonians had been looking for work for at least six months. The longer this goes on, the harder it is for job seekers to return to the workforce and the harder it is for our economy to reach its full potential.
What’s worse, Oregon had a housing crisis even before the pandemic. The Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey shows that since 2000, Oregon’s homeownership rate has typically been below the national average. As of 2017, Oregon has the ninth lowest homeownership rate in the U.S.
Now, according to reports, more Oregonians are struggling to pay for their housing with minority families that are already less likely to own homes being disproportionately impacted. Further, more than 4,000 homes were destroyed in the 2020 wildfires, displacing families across the state. This deeply concerns me for a number of reasons.
If we’re going to achieve a full economic and social recovery, the 10-point plan and stimulus dollars will go a long way. We also need to reject any barriers to that recovery. Chief to this, we need to make sure nothing stands in the way of getting into — and back into — affordable homes.
For example, United Wholesale Mortgage recently issued an ultimatum to mortgage brokers in that ultimately limits choices for consumers — homebuyers and existing homeowners looking to refinance.
Mortgage brokers serve as a bridge between borrowers and lenders, shopping the marketplace to find the best rates and financing options. By making brokers choose between working with Rocket Mortgage and Fairway Independent or working with UWM, the company is undermining the whole mission of brokers and limiting their ability to effectively serve their clients.
While this policy could impact all consumers in the mortgage industry, it will certainly be felt by low-income, minority, and credit-challenged borrowers. Using their expertise, experience, and relationships, brokers are able to uniquely serve these loan applicants by identifying which lenders will most likely be able to work with their situation and provide the best rates. But UWM’s ultimatum puts growing their market share ahead of the best interest of consumers.
I wouldn’t support this anti-competitive approach to business in the best of times — but feel it is especially egregious now, as our economy is struggling and access to affordable housing is arguably more important than ever.
As an elected official, I feel it’s my duty to protect consumers and their access to affordable housing. UWM’s ban puts that at risk and threatens to derail overall recovery efforts. Therefore, I strongly reject this effort.
Lianne Thompson is Clatsop County Commissioner, District 5.